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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sanhedrin

Folio 106a

is renewed1  and its roots are numerous, and even if all the winds of the world come and blow upon it they cannot dislodge it from its place, but it sways in unison with them, and as soon as the winds subside, the reed still stands in its place, [so may Israel be]. But the wicked Balaam blessed them by the cedar:2  just as the cedar does not stand in a watery place, and its roots are few and its stock is not renewed, and even if all the winds of the world come and blow upon it they cannot stir it from its place, but immediately the South wind blows upon it it uproots and overturns it on its face, [so may Israel be]. Nay, more, it was the reed's privilege that a quill thereof should be taken for the writing of the Scroll of the Torah, Prophets and Hagiographa.


And he looked on the Kenite, and took up his parable.3  Balaam said to Jethro, 'Thou Kenite, wast thou not with us in that scheme?4   Who then placed thee among the strong ones of the world!'5  And that is what R. Hiyya b. Abba said in R. Simai's name: Three were involved in that scheme,6  viz., Balaam, Job, and Jethro. Balaam, who advised it, was slain; Job, who was silent,7  was punished through suffering; and Jethro, who fled — his descendants were privileged to sit in the Hall of Hewn Stones, as it is written, And the families of the scribes which dwell at Jabez, the Tirathites, the Shemeathites, and Suchathites. These are the Kenites that came of Hemath, the father of the house of Rechab;8  whilst elsewhere it is written, And the children of the Kenite, Moses' father in law, went up out of the city of palm trees.9

And he took up his parable, and said, Alas, who shall live when God doeth this!10  R. Simeon b. Lakish said: Woe unto him who maketh himself alive by the name of God,11  R. Johanan said: Woe to the nation that may be found [attempting to hinder], when the Holy One, blessed be He, accomplishes the redemption of his children: who would throw his garment between a lion and a lioness when these are copulating!12

And ships shall come from the coast of Chittim.13  Rab said: This refers to the White Legion.14  And shall afflict Asshur, and shall afflict

    Eber:15  Until Asshur, they shall slay; after that, they shall throw into subjection.16

And now, behold I go unto my people; come, therefore, and I will advertise thee what this people shall do to thy people in the latter days.17  But he should have said, What thy people shall do to this people?18  — R. Abba b. Kahana said: It is as one who, cursing himself, refers his malediction to others.19  He [Balaam] said thus to him [Balak]. 'The God of these hates lewdness, and they are very partial to linen.20  Come, and I will advise thee. Erect for them tents enclosed by hangings, in which place harlots, old women without, young women within, to sell them linen garments.' So he erected curtained tents from the snowy mountain [Hermon] as far as Beth ha-Yeshimoth [i.e., right from north to south], and placed harlots in them — old women without, young women within. And when an Israelite ate, drank, and was merry, and issued forth for a stroll in the market place, the old woman would say to him, 'Dost thou not desire linen garments?' The old woman offered it at its current value, but the young one for less. This happened two or three times. After that she would say to him, 'Thou art now like one of the family; sit down and choose for thyself.' Gourds of Ammonite wine lay near her, and at that time Ammonite21  and heathen wine had not yet been forbidden. Said she to him, 'Wouldst thou like to drink a glass of wine?' Having drunk, [his passion] was inflamed, and he exclaimed to her, 'Yield to me!' Thereupon she brought forth an idol from her bosom and said to him, 'Worship this'! 'But I am a Jew', he

    protested. 'What does that concern thee?' she rejoined, 'Nothing is required but that thou should uncover thyself' — whilst he did not know that such was its worship. 'Nay', [said she,] 'I will not leave thee ere thou hast denied the Torah of Moses thy teacher,' as it is written, They went into Baal-peor, and separated themselves unto that shame, and their abominations were according as they loved.22

And Israel abode in Shittim.23  R. Eliezer said: Its name was Shittim. R. Joshua said: They engaged in ways of folly [shetuth],24  And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods:25  R. Eliezer said: They met them naked;26  R. Joshua said: They were all excited to pollution.27

What is the meaning of Rephidim?28  — R. Eliezer said: Rephidim was its name. R. Joshua said: [It was so called] because there they slackened in [their loyalty to] the Torah, as it is written, The fathers shall not look back to their children for feebleness of hands.29

R. Johanan said: Wherever [Scripture] writes 'And he abode [or dwelt]', it denotes trouble, Thus: And Israel abode in Shittim — and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab;30  And Jacob dwelt in the laid where his father was a stranger, in the land of Canaan31 — and Joseph brought unto his father their evil report;32  And Israel dwelt in the land of Egypt, in the country of Goshen33 — And the time drew near that Israel must die;34  And Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig tree35 — And the Lord stirred up an adversary unto Solomon, Hadad the Edomite; he was the king's seed in Edom.36

And they slew the kings of Midian, beside the rest of them that were slain … Balaam also the son of Beor they slew with the sword.37  What business had Balaam there? — R. Jonathan said: He went to receive

    his reward for the twenty-four thousand Israelites whose destruction he had encompassed.38  Mar Zutra b. Tobiah remarked in Rab's name: This is what men say, 'When the camel went to demand horns, they cut off the ears he had.'39


Balaam also the son of Beor, the soothsayer, [did the children of Israel slay with the sword].40  A soothsayer? But he was a prophet! — R. Johanan said: At first he was a prophet, but subsequently a soothsayer.41  R. Papa observed: This is what men say, 'She who was the descendant of princes and governors, played the harlot with carpenters.'42

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. It grows again after it is cut down,
  2. Deut. XXIV, 6, quoted above.
  3. Num. XXIV, 21.
  4. To destroy Israel through Pharoah's decree: Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river — Ex. I, 22 — Of course thou wast!
  5. A metaphor for the Sanhedrin situated in the Hall of Hewn Stones, which counted amongst its members Jethro's descendants. That is the meaning of Strong is thy dwelling place.
  6. V. n. 2.
  7. Not voicing his disapproval.
  8. I Chron. II, 55.
  9. Judges I, 16.
  10. Num, XXIV, 23.
  11. [H] is read [H] [Herford, op. cit. 74ff. sees in this a covert allusion to Jesus.]
  12. So also, woe to the nation that would come between God and Israel when He is redeeming them to bring them to Himself
  13. Ibid. 24.
  14. [ [H]. So Levy, adopting the reading [[H] ([G]) [H] ([G])]. Funk, Schwarz Festschrift, p. 248, takes [H] as the Persian aswar, 'knight', and renders 'a legion of knights', (cf. Lat. ferreus equitatus). The verse is accordingly interpreted: 'Legions will come from the Coast of Chittim, etc.' the Chittim being taken to denote Rome, (cf. Targ. Yerushalmi a.l.]. Jastrow regards the whole passage as an interpolation of the eighth or ninth century, and as referring to Leo the Isaurian, the Byzantine Emperor, leader of the iconoclastic movement which caused a long war between the East and the West of the Empire.
  15. Ibid.
  16. The nations which shall conquer each other — referred to in the words 'and ships' shall, up to Asshur, completely destroy the defeated. But after that a victorious nation shall merely enthral its victim, but not destroy it.
  17. Ibid. 14.
  18. According to Rabbinic tradition, he advised the Moabites to ensnare Israel through unchastity. Thus, he was referring to an action by the former to the latter, whilst Scripture suggests the reverse.
  19. I.e., makes others the object thereof, though meaning himself, so Scripture, alluding to Israel's disgrace, makes it appear that the allusion is really to Moab.
  20. Linen garments were worn by the wealthy and noble; cf. Gen. XLI, 42; Ex. XXVIII, 39.
  21. This is omitted in the Yalkut and Tanhuma.
  22. Hosea IX, 10; i.e., they separated themselves from Moses' teaching.
  23. Num. XXV, 1.
  24. [H].
  25. Ibid. 2.
  26. They called — i.e., they attracted them by their naked bodies.
  27. Deriving [H] from [H] the usual euphemism for semen.
  28. Having discussed the meaning of one place name, the Talmud proceeds to discuss another: Then came Amalek and fought with Israel in Rephidim — Ex. XVII, 8.
  29. Jer. XLVII, 3. This is quoted to shew that [H] which he assumes to be the root of Rephidim, connotes weakness.
  30. Ibid.
  31. Gen. XXXVII, 1.
  32. Ibid. 3.
  33. Ibid. XLVII, 27.
  34. Ibid. 29.
  35. I Kings V, 5.
  36. Ibid. XI, 14.
  37. Num, XXXI, 8.
  38. V. ibid, XXV, 1-9: since Israel was thus seduced and punished through his advice, as stated above, he demanded payment.
  39. So Balaam, demanding a reward, lost his life.
  40. Joshua XIII, 22.
  41. As a punishment for wishing to curse Israel he was degraded from a prophet to a soothsayer.
  42. 'Shipdraggers,' (v. Rashi). Herford, Christianity in the Talmud, p. 48, suggests that Balaam is frequently used in the Talmud as a type for Jesus (v. also pp. 64-70). Though no name is mentioned to shew which woman is meant, the mother of Jesus may be alluded to, which theory is strengthened by the statement that she mated with a carpenter. (The Munich MS. has [H] in the margin instead of [H], i.e., singular instead of plural.)
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Sanhedrin 106b

    Did the children of Israel slay with the sword among them that were slain by them.1  Rab said: They subjected him to four deaths, stoning, burning, decapitation and strangulation.2

A certain min3   said to R. Hanina: Hast thou heard how old Balaam was? — He replied: It is not actually stated, but since it is written, Bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days,4  [it follows that] he was thirty-three or thirty-four years old.5  He rejoined: Thou hast said correctly; I personally have seen Balaam's Chronicle, in which it is stated, 'Balaam the lame was thirty years old when Phinehas the Robber killed him.'6

    Mar, the son of Rabina, said to his sons: In the case of all [those mentioned as having no portion in the future world] you should not take [the Biblical passages dealing with them] to expound them [to their discredit], excepting in the case of the wicked Balaam: whatever you find [written] about him, lecture upon it [to his disadvantage].

Scripture writes Doeg7  and Doeeg:8  R. Johanan said: At first the Holy One, blessed be He, sits and is anxious lest one go out on an evil course. But when he has done so, He exclaims, 'Woe, that he has entered [on an evil path]!'

(Mnemonic: The Mighty, Wicked, Righteous, Riches, Scribe.)

R. Isaac said: What is meant by the verse, Why boastest thou thyself in mischief, O mighty man? The goodness of God endureth continually?9  — The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Doeg,10  'Art thou not a mighty man in Torah? Why then boastest thou thyself in mischief?11  Is not the love of God continually spread over thee?' R. Isaac also said: What is meant by the verse; But unto the wicked God sayeth, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes?12  The Holy One, blessed be He, said to the wicked Doeg, 'What hast thou to do to declare [i.e., study] my statutes: when thou comest to the sections dealing with murderers and slanderers, how dost thou expound them?'13  Or that thou shouldst take my covenant in thy mouth?14  R. Ammi said: Doeg's learning was only from the lips without.15  R. Isaac also said: What is meant by the verse, The righteous also shall see, and fear, and shall laugh at him?16  — At first they shall fear [the wicked person], but subsequently laugh at him. R. Isaac also said: What is meant by the verse, He hath swallowed down riches, and he shall vomit them up again: God shall cast them out of his belly?17  David pleaded before the Holy One, blessed be He, 'Sovereign of the Universe! Let Doeg die!' He replied, 'He hath swallowed down riches, and he shall vomit them up again.'18  He rejoined, 'Let God cast them out of his belly!'19

R. Isaac also said: What is meant by God shall likewise destroy thee for ever?20  — The Holy One, blessed be He, said to David, 'Let us bring Doeg to the future world.' He replied to Him, 'God shall likewise destroy thee for ever.' What is meant by the verse, He shall take thee away, and pluck thee out of the tent, and root thee out of the land of the living. Selah?21  The Holy One, blessed be He, urged, 'Let a law be stated in his name in the schoolhouse,' but he [David] replied to Him, 'He shall take thee away and pluck thee out of the tent. 'Then let his children be Rabbis!' — 'And thy root [shall be torn out] of the land of the living. Selah!' R. Isaac also said: What is meant by the verse, Where is the enumerator, where is the weigher! Where is he that counted the towers!22  — Where is he who enumerated all the letters of the Torah?23  Where is he who weighed all the light [comparatively unimportant] and heavy [important] [precepts] of the Torah?24  Where is he that counted the towers — who counted three hundred fixed laws on a 'tower flying in the air.'25

R. Ammi said: Doeg and Ahitophel propounded four hundred problems with respect to a tower flying in the air, and not one was solved. Raba observed: Is there any greatness in propounding problems? In the years of Rab Judah the whole study was confined to Nezikin,26  whilst we study a great deal even of 'Ukzin;27  and when Rab Judah came to the law, 'If a woman preserves vegetables in a pot' — or as others say, 'olives which were preserved with their leaves are clean,'28  — he observed, 'I see here the discussion of Rab and Samuel;'29  whilst we, on the other hand, have studied Ukzin at thirteen sessions, yet Rab Judah merely took off his shoes, and the rain came down,30  whilst we cry out [in supplication] but there is none to heed us. But it is because the Holy One, blessed be He, requires the heart, as it is written, But the Lord looketh on the heart.31

R. Mesharsheya said: Doeg and Ahitophel did not comprehend legal discussions. Mar Zutra objected: Those of whom it is written, Where is the enumerator, where is the weigher? Where is he that counted the towers?32  yet you say that they did not comprehend legal discussions! — But their views were not in accordance with the halachah [final ruling], as it is written, The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him.33

R. Ammi said: Doeg did not die until he forgot his learning,34  as it is written, He shall die without instruction, and in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray.35  R. Ashi said: He was smitten with leprosy, for it is said, Thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee;36  whilst elsewhere it is written, [And if it be not redeemed within the space of a full year, then the house … shall be established] la-zemithuth37  [to him that hath bought it],38  which we translate la-halutin39  [i.e., 'absolutely and definitely the purchasers']. And we learnt: The only difference between him who is a mezora' muhlat [definitely a leper] and one who is locked up [for observation] is in respect of letting the hair grow wild and tearing the garments.40

(Mnemonic: Three, Saw, and Half; and Called.)

R. Johanan said: Three destroying angels appeared before Doeg: one caused him to forget his learning, one burnt his soul, and the third scattered his ashes in the synagogues and schoolhouses. R. Johanan also said: Doeg and Ahitophel did not see each other [i.e., were not contemporaries], Doeg living in Saul's reign, Ahitophel in David's. R. Johanan also said: Doeg and Ahitophel did not live out half their days. It has been taught likewise: Bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days:41  Doeg's entire lifetime amounted only to thirty four years, and Ahitophel's to thirty three.

R. Johanan also said: At first David called Ahitophel his teacher, then his companion [colleague], and finally his disciple. At first he called him his teacher, as it is written, But it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance.42  Then his companions [as it is written] We took sweet counsel together, and walked into the house of God in company.43  Finally his disciple — Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted,

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Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. Ibid.
  2. This is suggested by the use of the plural 'among them that were slain by them,' intimating that the various deaths inflicted upon others were all suffered by Balaam. Thus he was hung (strangulation), a fire was lit under him (burning), his head was struck off (decapitation), and then he was allowed to fall to earth (stoning); v. supra 45a.
  3. Heretic, v. Glos.
  4. Ps. LV, 24.
  5. cf. p. 471, n. 1.
  6. [According to the view that all the Balaam passages are anti-Christian in tendency, Balaam being used as an alias for Jesus, Phinehas the Robber is thus taken to represent Pontius Pilatus, and the Chronicle of Balaam probably to denote a Gospel (v. Herford op. cit. 72ff.). This view is however disputed by Bacher and others: cf. Ginzberg, Journal of Biblical Literature, XLI, 121.]
  7. I Sam. XXI, 8. [H] denoting 'anxious'.
  8. Ibid. XXII, 18. [H] with letters [H] 'woe' being inserted,
  9. Ps. LII, 3.
  10. The psalm deals with Doeg; v. superscription in v. 2.
  11. I.e., to slander David and Abimelech for succouring him.
  12. Ibid. L, 16.
  13. Seeing that thou art both.
  14. Ibid.
  15. I.e., it did not penetrate into his heart and mould his character.
  16. Ibid, LII, 8.
  17. Job XX, 15.
  18. He has studied the Torah; wait till he forgets it.
  19. Do not wait for him to forget it naturally, but speed his forgetfulness.
  20. Ps. LII, 7.
  21. Ibid.
  22. Isa. XXXIII, 18.
  23. V. J.E. s.v. Masorah VIII, 366. It is there suggested that the Numerical Masorah, which counted and grouped the various elements of the Biblical text, developed on account of the copyists, who were paid according to the amount. The Talmud regards this as a work of piety and devotion, undertaken with the object of guarding the Bible from the introduction of spurious matter.
  24. I.e., who can draw conclusions by means of ad majus arguments.
  25. Rashi offers a number of interpretations: (i) who deduced three hundred laws from the upper stroke of the k; (ii) who stated three hundred laws in respect of the defilement of one who enters the land of heathens in a tower-shaped conveyance; (iii) three hundred laws relating to the suspension of a tower in the air by means of enchantment. Another reading is, 'on a tower standing in the air,' i.e., not immediately situated upon the grounds but supported by pillars. The laws will refer to the cleanliness or otherwise of its contents (v. Ohal. IV, 1).
  26. 'Damages', the fourth Order ([H]) of the Talmud. When Rab Judah was head of the academy of Pumbeditha, only the fourth Order was studied, but not the other Orders. This would appear to be the meaning of the passage. But Weiss, Dor III, 196ff, having regard to the abundance of contributions in Rab's name by Rab Judah on the other orders, explains the passage to mean; 'only as far as Nezikin.' i.e., the first four Orders. These being of practical utility, were intensively studied, and new laws stated. But as for the last two Orders dealing with sacrifices and ritual purity, though taught in the academy, no effort was made to formulate new laws, since the subjects were of no practical interest to Babylon, and Rab Judah contented himself with teaching only what had been transmitted to him.
  27. Name of a treatise of the Mishnah and the Tosefta, belonging to the sixth Order; lec. var. 'we study intensively the six Orders.'
  28. I.e., if their stalks came into contact with anything unclean, the vegetables or the olives themselves are unaffected.
  29. Rashi interprets: He did not know why they should be clean — i.e., he regarded these subjects as extremely difficult. Weiss a.l. explains: It is sufficient to deal with these matters on the basis of the discussions of Rab and Samuel, without endeavouring to formulate new reasons or laws in connection with them.
  30. When special intercessory prayers for rain had to be offered, at which the shoes were removed, Rab Judah merely had to make resort to this self-humiliation in preparation for prayer, and they were immediately answered.
  31. I Sam. XVI, 7.
  32. V. p. 727.
  33. Ps. XXV, 14.
  34. V. supra.
  35. Prov. V, 23.
  36. Ps. LXXIII, 27.
  37. [H].
  38. Lev. XXV, 30.
  39. [H], v. Targum Onkelos and Jonathan.
  40. Which shows that the term [H] is employed to denote a leper. Hence, the first verse is to be rendered, Thou hast smitten with definite (leprosy) all them that go a whoring from thee.
  41. Ps. LV, 24.
  42. Ibid. 14.
  43. Ibid. 15.
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